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Op-Ed: LIRR essential workers begin to receive vaccines

The Far Rockaway LIRR station. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

BY PHILLIP ENG

As we start 2021 with new hope, I’m grateful that LIRR employees are beginning to receive vaccines as part of the coordinated MTA effort. This will ensure the continued health of our frontline heroes, allowing them to continue to safely deliver essential service supporting our region’s economic rebound as we continue the fight against this deadly pandemic.  

We look forward this year to ongoing accomplishments of mainline expansion and to providing eastbound service to the new Belmont station ahead of the Islanders 2021-22 season.

While we are optimistic about 2021, I want to recount what was achieved in 2020. To do this amount of work in any year is a great accomplishment, but to do it in the midst of a global pandemic makes this even more remarkable. The efforts by our workforce and management are reflected now in on-time performance, and will be felt by customers for many years to come. 

Our engineering department fortified and renewed our system, ensuring its continued safety today and for the future. We broke a number of installation records in 2020, including more than 287,000 feet of continuous welded rail, and more than 73,000 concrete ties. Every day, we ensure that this work is executed as safely as possible, while constantly looking for ways to minimize costs and achieve efficiencies to make available funding go further. 

This all leads to better and more reliable service for the public. For 2020, our entire system collectively operated on-time at 95.9%, reaching an increase of 3.5 percentage points over 2019. Customers on all our branches benefitted as each of our 11 branches made or exceeded our goal of 94%.

We’ve made great strides toward our goal of cutting down delays that have notoriously frustrated our riders. In just two examples, compared to 2019, our efforts decreased switch trouble delays (down 75%) and broken rails (down 59%). All this was in addition to completing Positive Train Control on schedule, providing an additional layer of safety for riders and employees.

I’m proud that we are continuously improving and have been able to provide safe, reliable service to our customers who have needed us during this pandemic, and for being a vital source of transportation to medical workers, and other frontline employees.  When others return they will find a more efficient and reliable railroad.  None of this could be possible if not for everyone working together as a team.   Battling the pandemic, delivering service, performing vital work, and building for the future has truly been an all-hands effort as we take care of each other. Thanks to the public, all our employees, and labor leaders for their partnership in helping us continue to build the best railroad Long Island has ever seen.

Phillip Eng is president of the Long Island Rail Road.

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